Inside King Charles and Camilla’s “Tampongate” and how they made it through

King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, have had a long, famous, and loving relationship. The two were famously involved in an affair while Charles was still married to Princess Diana, one that captured newspaper headlines the world over.

Yet despite their troubles, the couple fought through the negativity directed at them. In May, they will become King and Queen when Charles is formally coronated. 

Today, many have found renewed interest in the British Royal Family thanks to the television series The Crown. The show, currently in its fifth season, explores Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the many events that shaped it. It also highlights certain scandals that many might have forgotten about.

One such scandal was what many dubbed “Tampongate,” or “Camillagate.” In December 1989, a very explicit phone call between Charles and Camilla was secretly recorded and later leaked to the press.

It pretty much confirmed that the two had engaged in an affair, which naturally led to no end of drama for the Royal Family.

So what did Charles and Camilla talk about? Well, a few years ago, the full transcript of the private conversation was published. Suffice it to say that it’s rather juicy

King Charles, Camilla
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King Charles and Camilla’s relationship goes back decades. In fact, their love story can be traced all the way back to 1972, when they first met at a polo match.

King Charles and Camilla

In the book “Charles and Camilla Portrait of a Love Affair,” author Gyles Brandreth claims that Charles and Camilla were introduced by their mutual friend Lucia Santa Cruz, the daughter of the Chilean ambassador.

The couple dated for a while, but stopped when Charles left to serve in the Royal Navy. By the time he returned, Camilla was involved and engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles.

Bowles and Camilla married in 1973, but Camilla maintained a close and friendly relationship with Charles. Back then, the king had started dating 16-year-old Diana Spencer. 

When Diana was introduced to the Bowles couple, Camilla thought the young lady was “sweet and cute” and approved of her. At first, Diana and Camilla got along well. But things soon grew uncomfortable.

“I met [Camilla] very early on. I was introduced to the circle, but I was a threat, I was a very young girl, but I was a threat,” Diana explained in the book Diana: In Her Own Words.

According to Prince Charles’ authorized biography, as quoted by Town & Country, Charles and Camilla’s affair started in 1986. Charles was still married to Princess Diana at that point. She found out about it – and confronted Camilla.


Things for Charles and Diana continued as usual, at least from the public’s perspective. But it wasn’t long before the couple’s fairytale life was over.

In 1992, the couple announced their separation, though both continued with their official royal duties. Four years later, in August of 1996, they reached a final agreement for the divorce. 

King Charles and Camilla – Tampongate

By that stage, things had already reached the ears of the public regarding Charles’s relationship with Camilla. And what happened in December 1989 pretty much confirmed that they had actually been having an affair for years.

Just months after Charles and Diana formally separated, the press published a full transcript of a telephone call between the then-future King and Camilla.

The phone call revealed an intimate and sexual exchange between the couple. According to The Diana Chronicles, the person who recorded it had kept it for himself for years.

In his book Dogs and Lampposts, former Daily Mirror editor Richard Stott revealed that the Merseyside resident that had recorded the phone call had had “a few pints of lager and a curry and decided he would test out his latest gadget, an electronic homing device that picks up Cellnet signals.”

Charles happened to be staying close by, and the amateur radio enthusiast, by accident, picked up on his call. He recognized Charles’ voice from the beginning, though had no plans of handing the recording over to the papers.

It wasn’t before a recorded call between Diana and her friend – known as the Squidygate – was published in the paper that he realized he could make some money from the Charles-Camilla phone call he had inadvertently obtained. In the end, according to The Diana Chronicles, he sold it to the Daily Mirror and was paid around £30,000.

King Charles, Camilla
TIM GRAHAM/Getty Images

Richard Scott was the editor of the Mirror at the time. He received the tapes but decided not to publish them straight away. Instead, on November 11, the paper put out a headline teasing the leaked recording, which said, “Charles’s Secret Bedtime Phone Call.”

Tampongate – transcript

On January 17, 1993, the Mirror and Sunday People published the full transcript of Charles and Camilla’s intimate conversation. It included a tampon reference – hence the name “Tampongate.”

So what did they say? Take a look at part of the call below:

Charles: Oh, stop! I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out.

Camilla: Oh!

Charles: Particularly in and out.

Camilla: Oh, that’s just what I need at the moment.

Charles: Is it?


Charles: What about me? The trouble is I need you several times a week.

Camilla: Mmmm, so do I. I need you all the week. All the time.

Charles: Oh, God. I’ll just live inside your trousers or something. It would be much easier!

Camilla: (Laughing) What are you going to turn into, a pair of knickers? (Both laugh). Oh, you’re going to come back as a pair of knickers.

Charles: Or, God forbid, a Tampax. Just my luck! (Laughs)

Camilla: You are a complete idiot! (Laughs) Oh, what a wonderful idea.

Charles: My luck to be chucked down the lavatory and go on and on forever swirling round on the top, never going down.

Camilla: (Laughing) Oh, Darling!

Charles: Until the next one comes through.

Camilla: Oh, perhaps you could come back as a box.

Charles: What sort of box?

Camilla: A box of Tampax, so you could just keep going.

Charles: That’s true.

Camilla: Repeating yourself…(Laughing) Oh, darling, I just want you now.

Charles: Do you?

Camilla: Mmmmm

Charles: So do I!

Camilla: Desperately, desperately.

King Charles

As one can guess, public reaction wasn’t positive. Firstly, Princess Diana was a national icon and loved by all, and the idea of Charles going behind her back and causing her harm didn’t sit well with anyone.

King Charles admitted to cheating on Diana

Secondly, the scandal involved the future king – just hearing him say things like “live inside her trousers” was wholly unexpected and considered inappropriate. According to Sally Bedel Smith, author of the biography Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern March, a poll was released shortly after the transcript was published

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said that then-Prince Charles had destroyed his reputation, and 42 percent even thought that Prince William should become the monarch after Elizabeth.

Thirdly, the phone call that took place in 1989 more than confirmed that Charles had engaged in an affair with Camilla while still married to Diana. It also proved that Camilla had cheated on her husband, Andrew Parker Bowles.

Two years after the phone call was published, Charles took part in a documentary where he admitted that he had been unfaithful to Diana. However, he claimed that he only did it after their relationship had “irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”

In November 1995, Diana appeared in a televised interview with Martin Bashir and spoke about her marriage. When asked about Camilla and if she was a factor in the breakdown of their marriage, Diana famously answered: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Camilla Parker Bowles

In the beginning, Camilla was, unsurprisingly, not particularly popular among the public. Neither was she any kind of favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s.

“Queen Elizabeth vented her anger”

In 2018, investigative author and journalist Tom Bower claimed that, at first, the Queen didn’t want any interaction with Camilla. 

 At the time of Diana’s passing, there was an ongoing campaign to “introduce” Charles and Camilla’s relationship to the public. However, that was promptly abandoned in the wake of Diana’s passing.

At one point, it all became too much for Charles. As per author and journalist Tom Bower, he confronted his mother at Balmoral Castle. 

“He asked that she soften her antagonism so he could live openly with Camilla,” he said. “His hope was that the Queen, who rarely interfered, would at least not directly forbid it.”

The Queen, however, was of a different mind. She is said to have lashed out at Charles.

Bower continued: “But on that evening she’d had several martinis, and to Charles’ surprise, she replied forcefully: she would not condone his adultery, nor forgive Camilla for not leaving Charles alone to allow his marriage to recover. [Queen Elizabeth] vented her anger that he had lied about his relationship with what she called ‘that wicked woman,’ and added: ‘I want nothing to do with her.'”


Even though Camilla and the Queen didn’t get a great start to their relationship, it certainly got better over the years.

King Charles Camilla’s relationship today

Whether Camilla would become Queen Consort or not was a matter debated for a long time. However, it wasn’t until earlier this year – on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne – that the Queen, for the first time, publicly addressed her daughter-in-law’s role in the monarchy.

Her Majesty said her “sincere wish” was that Camilla would be known as Queen Consort when Charles was sworn in as the new king.

In any case, King Charles and Camilla’s relationship has grown in popularity, and it seems the public has finally accepted her as their future Queen. The two are deeply in love, and in 2018, in the television film The Real Camilla, she gave viewers a different perspective on herself and her and Charles’s relationship.

In one scene, Camilla and Charles speak to each other sincerely, even though the cameras are rolling. In an interview with Fox, producer Juliet Rice shared some of Camilla’s secrets behind her happy marriage with Charles.

“She was rather an enigma. And I think she was greatly pleased by the film actually. It shows her to be this incredibly decent human being. She’s never been able to show that before. So I think it was a great experience for her, too,” Rice said.

King Charles, Camilla
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Today, Charles and Camilla are not only happily married, but also have the joy of being grandparents.

“You just sit and be together”

Camilla has previously spoken on how great Charles is with his grandchildren. When she turned 75, she appeared in an interview with Vogue to give even greater insight into her and the king’s relationship.

The Queen Consort revealed that the key to a happy marriage is finding time to take away stress together. As royal duties can be challenging, Camilla added that she and Charles are aware of the need to balance their work and private life.

The couple tries to find at least one moment each day where they can just be together without anyone around. Camilla explained they usually “sit down together, have a cup of tea, and discuss the day.”

“It’s not easy sometimes, but we do always try to have a point in the day when we meet. Sometimes it’s like ships passing in the night, but we always sit down together and have a cup of tea and discuss the day. We have a moment,” Camilla said.

“It’s lovely to catch up when we have a bit of time. You know when we go away, the nicest thing is that we actually sit and read our books in different corners of the same room. It’s very relaxing because you know you don’t have to make conversation. You just sit and be together.”

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